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Live and Learn…Social Media Style

Ever since the early days of the internet, you know back when we were all innocent, happily posting away, giddily anticipating as the square with the lightening (complete with sound effects) gave way to the one with the triangle…(or am I the only one who remembers the early days of dial up AOL?) There have also been warnings, few and quiet at first, becoming stronger and more dire as the years flew by…protect yourself and more importantly, your INFORMATION! Hackers are EVERYWHERE and they are looking for YOU!
As a college student I took the warnings with a grain of salt, taking the usual precautions: anti-virus software, awesome (I thought) passwords. Later as I became wiser and more involved with social media; I became a blogger, then later a public affairs officer and then a social media consultant; I became even more savvy to the evils of phishing, trojans, keystoke viruses and web/spider trawlers A.K.A. Hacker scum with nothing better to do than ruin your day, week, life…

However, as aforesaid social media consultant I had grown comfortable with my knowledge…a dangerous thing. I assumed I was safe..it would never happen to me…until it did.

Sometime yesterday my GMail account was viciously hacked. 623 emails (EVERYONE in my address book) was sent an untitled email with a link that appeared to be from Google but was actually a virus. Not only was this bad for my social life, but the emails that went out also went out to people I had sent resumes to, people that trusted me in my network (including government, politics, the military, social media and the entertainment industry) now all exposed for the world to see. The link was also conveniently posted to my Facebook, Posterous, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIN and FriendFeed pages just in case you somehow missed the email! I was not only angry I was mortified!
To top it off when I decided to be proactive and change all my passwords I discovered my Google account had been disabled for a violation of TOS (since my ADsense address is also in my address book, Google was also sent the virus!) And I guess they don’t appreciate that sort of thing.
Well I immediately contacted them, Facebook, Twitter and most of my other services to let them know what was going on. Thankfully Google did not take the most extreme measure which would be to ban me forever from all Google services, but I did get a really stern email about taking preventitive measures in the future which made me feel about two inches tall. And I of course had to send out about a million emails, tweets and posts to apologize for the hacking, which more than a few did not take lightly.
Well, what’s done is done. Did I learn anything? Hell yes. Am I a little humbled by my experience? Absolutely. Am I getting new virus software, changing passwords and encrypting the hell out of everything? Duh.

Live and Learn.

Should PR and Media Pro’s Offer Opinions?

I was recently contacted by Jess Todd about a particular controversy that I couldn’t help but weigh in on. For the entire encounter you can read over his blog, but in a nutshell he was basically lambasted for offering his opinions on a topic that he happened to know something about, rather than go the standard PR route. Those of you in PR know what I’m talking about, something  happens, or will happen and you send a release, the reporters call and you hand them off to an “expert” of some sort, or occasionally just someone else. Well what Todd did was streamline the process by contacting the media directly and simply stating that ” “as a media consultant, I have thoughts and opinions on the story and am available for interview or quotes.”

A few media outlets took him up on his offer and called him. Others however…went off calling his methods into question, accusing him of dictating what they should print, that it was their job to go find the “news” yada yada yada.

So this brings up a very good question. Is there a more efficient way to do things, some of the time? I have never been one to say that just because we have new methods we have to use them exclusively. However there have been many times when I knew I could make the reporter’s job a hell of a lot easier if I simply contacted them first with ALL the info they would need, rather than require them to have to go on a fishing expedition that they most likely don’t have time for anyway. So many story ideas get dropped for this very reason. Tight deadlines and stiff competition for space/time means that the days of the reporter who does all his or her own pounding of the pavement are long gone. PR professionals are here to help…so let us help. So to get back to the particular situation, which was his commenting on the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner, he shot me an email saying he wanted my take on the situation and my response to him was this:

“I think you are actually right on the money. I used to work in-house PR sending out the standard releases and when reporters would call, it was always me putting them in touch with someone else, one more step for them to take, and not because I wasn’t qualified but because that was simply how things were done where I worked. We were PR people, and treated by management as having little value – just get the right people to the reporters. Well, having been in the media business myself, having worked as a social media consultant, I too have an opinion on many subjects. Am I always the best? No. Am I an expert at everything I like to talk about? No. But then I don’t claim to be either. I am simply someone with experience that knows a few things about what is going on in the world, especially if it has to do with social media, PR or wildlife conservation.”

Where is the best place for those of us who have become hybrids at what we do? Is there a time when being efficient becomes overstepping our bounds as PR and Media professionals? Professionally I find nothing wrong with what Todd did or the idea of offering our services straight out whether they be quotes, opinions, whatever help we can provide to reporters so that they can get their job done faster, better and with better quality. Isn’t that after all one of the core responsibilities of public relations?

I applaud Todd for staying on top of the newest methods of breaking through to media. In today’s lighting quick world, when a plane crash is faster tweeted than reported on the six-o-clock news, it is all too important that people like him, people like me even continue the all important work of media and social media research to make sure that the public is always well-informed.

Think I’m wrong? Right? Have your own opinion you’re just dying to share? I welcome your comments.

(image courtesy of PRtalknow.com)

Why I Will Never Stop Blogging

Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass

I just recently learned that I was accepted by Alltop – that I will be included in their listing, which is a great honor for me and so I felt that I owed them an explanation of why I love blogging and why I will never stop.

In all my years of writing I have always felt that there were certain limitations placed upon me. Whether by a teacher for a school assignment, an essay contest, a grant proposal, an editor, you name it. But with blogging…I feel that with very few exceptions I can be totally free to express myself.

I have always loved words. I guess I can thank my overbearing 3rd grade teacher in part for that one. I was quite the talker in grade school, always eager to shout out the answer whether I had raised my hand or not. Her punishment was to have me copy dictionary pages while sitting in silent lunch. Truth be told I spent nearly the entire third grade in silent lunch and had copied that dictionary (EVERY PAGE) twice by the end of the year. But I guess It really did me some good though since after that I was placed in advanced classes(primarily due to my excellent vocabulary) and never again received a bad grade for behavior….ever. Thanks Ms.Taylor!

Anyways, back to writing, even before that I was always writing poems, short stories or drawing cartoons. I had so much in my head that I wanted to share. Some people got it and others wished that I would spend a little less time in fantasy land and concentrate on math and science more. I didn’t care though and by the time I was in high school I was winning awards for my creative writing.

As anyone who has followed this blog knows I discovered blogging in college and a new outlet for me was born. All of the sudden I was free to write pretty much whatever I felt like. I have never pushed to monetize this blog, it is simply my way of expressing all that I have swirling around in my brain. I love talking about public relations, which in many ways is simply good story telling and this is how I do it. So therefore, no matter how few readers, I will NEVER stop blogging. I now operate five blogs actually, each with a different purpose, each with a different style and I love all of them. I hope that you have the chance to one day visit them all.

What makes things even better is that I have passed on my inherent passion for storytelling and writing to my children as evident in The Adventures of the Little Red Car, a story-blog I am co-writing with my children based on semi-true events.

I also write about the crazy adventures I had while serving as a public affairs officer for a wildlife conservation agency for nearly three years, an experience that led me to become a conservation ecologist.

Dancing to the Music in my Head is a deeply personal blog where I write about my family, my friends and what it’s like to just be a crazy creative soul in a topsy-turvy world that is not always open or accepting of people like me.

The last one, Teaching with Technology was started as this one was, as a class blog and is not updated as regularly as I’d like it to be but I hope to get back to it soon for  it serves a valuable purpose, that of helping teachers and other educators (even non-traditional ones) of using this wonderful thing we refer to as social media to further education.

So I hope you will continue to enjoy reading as I enjoy writing it for you. Until Next time 🙂

How Good a Story-Teller are You?

I hemmed and hawed for a couple of weeks over the subject of this post. I am right in the middle of several projects and quite frankly could have written about any of them but as I am going to be a guest lecturer in the one and only Professor Karen Russell’s Classroom this Friday I felt that topic of properly engaging an audience perfectly fitted the bill.

Okay, first a little background. Way back when I was a lowly undergraduate struggling along with the rest of my class to figure out where I was going in life, (I will admit to being a little more anxious than most of my fellow students seeing as I had about 10 years and 2 kids on most of them) I met a really cool teacher. For whatever reason, call it fate or whatever, we just sort of clicked. We had kids roughly the same age and we were both into this “new” social media revolution. She assigned the class to start a blog, and here five years later, I am still at it. I found something I love to do. Something I enjoy so much in fact that I actually have started several others for various reasons and have helped various non-profits set up ones of their own. Over the last five years, Karen has given me feedback, advice, and friendship and has rightfully earned the title of blogging mentor. Now on to the rest of this post.

I have been studying social media for the past four years. My teachers are people that you are probably pretty familiar with if you follow social media at all. I’m talking about Blog Bloke, Holly Hoffman, Tiffany Mollohan, Lisa Barone, Kelley Crane, Matt Chevront, Michael Margolis, Daren Rowse, Eric Qualman and course Chris Brogan. Some of these I met via Brazen Careerist, an awesome site that brings a whole bunch of us bloggers together regularly in a comfortable forum where we can bounce ideas off one another and share both good and bad ideas. Others I’ve met only in passing, either through Twitter or one of my blogs but I can honestly say that I’ve learned something valuable from each and every one of them.

Recently I have been reading a fantastic book by Annette Simmons entitled “Whoever Tells The Best Story Wins”. When I first started reading it, I will admit it was out of pure curiosity, being a writer and a storyteller by trade. By the time I realized it was actually a book geared towards marketers I was enjoying it so much that I kept right on reading, figuring that the lessons learned could very well apply to just about anyone who makes a living from stringing words together, whether in a sales pitch or an article in a magazine.

So how does this apply to social media? I mean this post is about what I plan to talk about as a THE guest speaker for the 5990H class at the University of Georgia on Friday so I guess I should get to the point.

Social media is like any other media in that those who have the gift of being able to intuitively tune in to their audiences are going to be the most successful. To be able to do this you have to be able to suppress your natural inclinations towards objective thinking, you know the type of thing that has been ingrained into us since we were barely knee-high. This idea that everything must be logical, must have a justifiable cause and effect. This thinking will only slow you down when it comes to getting in tune with those who will ultimately become your bread and butter.

Lost yet? Here is an example. say that a particular client loves the color red, songs by Bach and moonlit walks along the beach. You have been hired to create a social media campaign for a new brand of breath fresheners. Objectively speaking the clients subjective whims have nothing to do with the product. But putting objective aside you decide to do a couple of independent online surveys to see if any of the target audience may also have similar associations with their breath freshener products. 

As it turns out, your cleverly worded survey brings in surprising results. Putting objective numbers and statistics aside you decide to run with your campaign which features individuals being carried away by their breath fresheners….taken over in a dream like state. The video shorts were posted on YouTube and the Twitter and Facebook campaign solicited consumers to send in their own experiences with their favorite brand of X breath freshener, whether it be a magical proposal moment or just a fun moment.

The client was impressed.  They had expected a presentation of numbers, target markets, graphs and the like.Objective stuff.Instead they got a series of stories told right from the mouths of the consumers, The subjective. What better way to sell a product than to tell a great story. One that can be repeated over and over again.

So I ask you. How good a storyteller are you?

Using your Backstory to Shape your Online Persona

“Everyone is a storyteller”  –Michael Margolis

I recently had the privilege of listening to a webinar broadcast from SXSW 2011 (where I so wish I could be right now) by the author and master storyteller, Michael Margolis. Despite tuning in a little late, the first comment I caught really made me sit up and pay attention; and that was that as social media entrepreneurs we are all essentially storytellers, that our success or failure depends on our ability to relate our story to our audience.

As a trained journalist, Communications & Outreach Specialist, PR pro and freelance writer by trade this totally made sense to me. after all, isn’t it my job to relate to those who I am working with by finding the common ground, by sharing my story in the hopes that there will indeed be a shared empathetic connection?

I think his primary point was to use your “back-story” to shape your online persona, the parts of yourself that you put out there for others to either accept, judge or completely ignore. The idea that we can reinterpret a past event through new perspectives and may even learn something new just made total sense to me. After all, don’t we all live according to a certain revisionist history to a point anyway? Seems to me that as we look back on what made us who we are, we may even learn something new to add to the story.

So what’s your back-story? I’m thinking that I can totally be a superhero if I want to be. I did after all graduate early, make it through college with honors while a single parent (at least in the beginning) and then became known for my social media knowledge through rigorous self tutelage (thanks @blogbloketips, @socialmediatoday, @socialguide and @HollyHoffman for that!)

So maybe from now on I am going to work on developing my back-story. Interested? Well you don’t have to take my word for it. You can download the free e-book “Story Manifesto” or buy your very own copy from the Get Storied website.


So What’s your back-story and how do you use it to engage with your clients? I’d love to hear all about it!


Facebook Isn’t Going Anywhere…

There are approximately 6.9 billion people on Earth and some 2 billion of them are online. Currently Facebook has 550 million users, expanding by 700,00 new users every day. Facebook will likely reach all 2 billion internet users within the next five years.

I read the above in an article by TIME Magazine – their 2010 People of The Year piece on Mark Zuckerberg. (I realize I am probably a little late reading the magazine but it was a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law who I’m convinced gives me all her People and TIME magazines because she is convinced I would have no clue about pop culture or current events otherwise. As I have no television, she may be right.)

Despite my lateness I was both fascinated and more than a little creeped out to read about Facebook’s meteoric rise and how it will likely continue to grow…like the weed that you think you can just yank out of the ground and then you discover it has feeder roots spreading out in every direction 20, 30 and 40 feet from the original plant. Facebook is everywhere, those little blue and white boxes urging you, luring you, silently coercing you to LIKE them no matter where you are on the web. Thanks to Facebook Connect two million websites are already affiliated with Facebook and 10,000 new web sites integrate with Facebook every. single. day. And we are not talking web sites with only a few readers here. Facebook counts The New York Times, Amazon, YouTube and even social networking rival MySpace among the sites that allow you to not only log in using your Facebook Login, but also to comment publicly on the site using your Facebook Public Profile as an Avatar.

The logic behind this is that as you use Facebook and surf the web every person’s profile becomes customized to their individual preferences, and there is no guessing involved. The scary part is that the customization is eerily accurate because it is based on actual choices, clicks, LIKES. If you get an ad on your page for REI Outdoor Adventure Apparel – it is because you somehow indicated that as an interest. Therefore your page won’t look like your neighbor’s page or even your best friends. Your preferences will not only show up as ads on your sidebar but as items in your News feed on your wall. Even better for advertisers is that it also appears on your friends News feed – as a personal endorsement from you. As TIME puts it, the holy grail of marketing and advertising – you do the work for them.

When I first read about Facebook Connect in May 2008 I was both impressed and freaked out. While I have strict privacy controls on my own Facebook account I will admit to being just like anyone else when it comes to sharing. At times you feel compelled – it is like writing a good review for good service and who wouldn’t want to do that? (I spent approximately 10 years in one aspect or another  of the service industry so  perhaps I am slightly biased…) It goes the other way to. If you receive bad service you want the world to know about it lest the same thing happen to anyone else. Facebook also allows you the platform to sympathize/rejoice/bitch with one another about anything under the sun.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Truth about Facebook and Shared Shopping Experiences…

Say you had a great cup of coffee from a small unknown retailer – talk about it on Facebook and next thing you know five of your friends have had a similar experience, the store starts to receive increased business, offers a Facebook discount which leads to another good Facebook post – the circle continues. This can be great for the small businessman. However say you bought a purse from well-known retailer but they forgot to remove the security tag. you call and speak to the manager who assures you that all you need to do is come in and bring your receipt. You explain that you will do that but want them to know that you are going out of your way to do this and that you bought the purse for a special function that evening and will not be able to use it since the store is closing in ten minutes and you can’t get back down there until the following afternoon. You head down to the store the next day and are stopped at the door when you set off the anti-theft alarm. Despite your attempts to explain you are escorted to the back room where you are interrogated by security. The manager you called is not on duty and didn’t leave any kind of note. You finally get it sorted out but by the time you leave you not only have missed an appointment but are also twenty minutes late for the next one. When you finally get there the first thing you do is flip open your Blackberry and tell the whole world via Facebook about your experience. By that evening twenty of your friends have commented on the situation and you have pretty much decided you will never shop there again. Your friends on campus commiserate with you and promise they will stop shopping there as well making a public pledge on Facebook. By the time 24 hours has gone by a fan page dedicated to receiving bad service at that particular retailer has been created and over 100 people have become a fan, leaving comments either supporting you or leaving their own bad experience. Facebook allowed you the platform to single-handedly make a dent in the local customer base of a large retailer. Thanks to the social aspect of everything we do, including how we shop, the store lost not one, but probably more than a dozen customers. Powerful stuff.

What’s next for Facebook?

So back to the article. Zuckerberg was asked what he thought the future of Facebook was. Would it go public? Would he ever sell? Would it eventually take over the world? He didn’t seem to think that Facebook would go public anytime soon (he doesn’t exactly need the money) but was more interested in how Facebook would expand. For someone who values his own privacy to the point that you can’t even become his friend on Facebook he seems to have an almost obsessive need to connect everyone else, whether they want to play or not. (One of the latest features of Facebook is that your friends can “check you in” to places if they see you out somewhere without your permission and without you knowing…unless you un-check a box in at least three different places. So much for keeping your recent visit to the Ob-Gyn private, somebody saw you!) More people are on Facebook than any other social network (550 million) with Facebook having the population of a small country (3rd largest) and claiming more than 700 billion online minutes a month. One out of every four American page views is for Facebook even though 70 percent of its user base is outside the United States. In seven years we have gone from having Facebook be a college co-ed’s distraction to an entity that outranks Google with the terms “Facebooking” and “Facebookization” being recognized and used just as Google became interchangeable with Search.

Final Thought…

For as many people who love Facebook you can find almost as many who despise it and the way it has changed the way the world works. However the one thing everyone can agree on is that it has changed things…and there is no going back.

What do you think about the way Facebook is changing the way we do things? Will Facebook become the new Google and will it eventually reach every internet user? I’d love to hear your thoughts!